The role of the shared services leader has changed dramatically over the last decade. Once exclusively responsible for tactical activities like cost reduction and process improvement, today’s shared services leader must continue to manage those tasks and be a strategic visionary, helping his or her organization seize opportunities and manage risk across functions in a world with evaporating geographic boundaries and continual technological change.
Unfortunately, shared services leaders report several significant gaps between the capabilities demanded by the new environment and the ability to effectively deliver against those capabilities. This was one of the primary conclusions of the 2012 Russell Reynolds Associates’ Shared Services Leadership Competency Study, which surveyed 62 shared services leaders across a range of industries, asking these executives to rate the importance of 14 competencies and assess the effectiveness of the organization’s shared services leaders in executing against them.
Respondents: 62 senior shared services executives
Timing: February 2012
Industry Representation: All
Geographic Representation: North America & Europe
80% with 5,000+ employess
55% with 25,000+ employess
- Although shared services leaders traditionally have been judged on “hard” skills like Execution and Operational Excellence and Delivering for Results, a significant majority (75 percent) cite “soft,” people-related skills as being extremely important to driving business success today (Figure 1, Letter A).
- Despite the emphasis they place on people-related skills, few shared services leaders give themselves high marks in this area. All four of the People Leadership, Relationships and Influence competencies feature significant gaps between reported importance and effectiveness (Figure 1, Letter A).
- Shared services leaders acknowledge their new mandate for driving organizational transformation, with 81 percent citing Change Leadership as very important. However, only 12 percent report high effectiveness in this area—the largest importance/effectiveness gap identified in the survey. We believe a major factor contributing to this gap is a blind spot surrounding Strategic Planning and Visionary/Transformational Leadership, which received surprisingly low importance ratings. Without careful planning—or the design and communication of a clear vision of the future—shared services leaders will struggle to effectively drive change within their organizations (Figure 1, Letter B).
- Another blind spot surrounds Commercial Acumen, which similarly received low importance scores. For shared services executives to effectively advise cross-functional peers and convey the commercial benefit of their teams’ effectiveness, these leaders must have a solid grasp of end-customer requirements and expectations (Figure 1, Letter C).
To help shared services executives optimize performance, we have isolated below the five competencies showing the greatest importance/effectiveness gaps (Figure 2). In addition, for each competency, we offer recommended developmental experiences for improving effectiveness. This information should be useful for designing and implementing individual development plans and managing succession for the head of shared services.
As shared services leaders face increasing expectations and changing business requirements, they must determine which skills and abilities will best carry them forward. We hope that the findings from this study provide a useful guide for identifying and building the capabilities required to succeed in the new world of shared services.
Russell Reynolds Associates helps companies across many different industries and around the globe to address leadership, talent and organizational issues associated with executive search.
Russell Reynolds Associates
Leadership for a Changing World. In today’s global business environment, success is driven by the talent, vision and leadership capabilities of senior executives.
Russell Reynolds Associates is a leading global executive search and assessment firm with more than 300 consultants based in 40 offices worldwide. Our consultants work closely with public and private organizations to assess and recruit senior executives and board members to drive long-term growth and success.
Our in-depth knowledge of major industries and our clients’ specific business challenges, combined with our understanding of who and what make an effective leader, ensures that our clients secure the best leadership teams for the ongoing success of their businesses. www.russellreynolds.com